Born in Mississippi, Bandy and his family had relocated to Texas in 1950, when he was only six years old. It was there he became a fan of the Grand Ole Opry and began soaking in a healthy diet of country, country-swing, bluegrass, and blues. His grandfather was a Texas railroad man, who was actually the boss of legendary country singer, Jimmy Rodgers, known in the 1920s and '30s as "The Singing Brakeman."
In his teens he took up music and played on occasion with his father's part time country band, the Mission City Playboys, but at 16 he moved from an interest in music to a fascination in the sport of rodeo riding. He became a champion bull and buck rider, which he did while still attending high school. By 1962, he was 18 and, tired of getting bruised and fractured, he gave up rough riding to focus on music again.
He chipped at a career in the Texas honky tonks, releasing his songs on small indie labels, while holding down a day job cutting sheet metal. During the late-1960s, he was able to get his group a slot as the house band for Texas-based TV show, Country Corner. It was there that he met and backed most of the bigger names in country music.
Eventually that led to a deal with GRP Records, where he scored his first national hit, "Bandy The Rodeo Clown." After three LPs with GRP, he was signed to Columbia Records, where he scored over a dozen Top 10 hits, both on his own and with future musical duet partner, Joe Stampley.